As we embark on the second semester of the school year, I am reminded of how our spring will be busy with exhibitions, defenses, and presentations. Families may wonder what drives the process that produces these culminating events and how can they support their students to be successful?
Our Brimmer curriculum is a blend of a variety of educational practices and philosophies that strive to reach every type of learner, to stretch our students in learning new and different methods, and to challenge them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. One effective practice we use is called Project Based Learning. “PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” (http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl)
Much of what drives the process of project-based learning is the art of questioning. Students are required to question and dig deeply into a topic. To help their student, adults can engage in the process of asking good questions. This will help the student probe a problem or question that is authentic and worth solving. Successful projects have value, show student voice, and reflect critical thinking and effective problem solving. Giving feedback during the process often means redirecting the student through inquiry and finding supportive resources. Once the student finds the path through the inquiry stage, the project is usually successful.
Whether your student is a senior embarking on the senior thesis defense, an eighth grader beginning the interdisciplinary Poverty Project, a fourth grader getting ready for the Fourth Fest, or a fifth grader researching a person who demonstrated independence–each of these projects follows the project-based curriculum philosophy. The public presentation for people beyond the classroom is just the final phase. In the months that lead up to the exhibition, families can support the work by asking good questions, which helps our students think deeply about their topic.